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Alabama Crimson Tide vs Utah State Aggies Season Opener Opponent Preview

Do the MWC champs have what it takes to hang with Alabama?

NCAA Football: LA Bowl-Oregon State vs Utah State Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

With the season opener fast approaching, it’s time to take a quick look at Alabama’s bodybag opponent for the kick off to the 2022 season. Season openers are always a bit difficult, as there’s not a whole lot out there for me to really study about the team before the Tide plays them.

That said, the Aggies do return their QB and RB from their 2021 squad that went 11-3 and won the Mountain West, as well as second-year head coach Blake Anderson. Anderson is a passing game guru that was part of the offensive explosion for Southern Miss in the early 2010s, a couple of huge seasons for North Carolina after that, and then a 6-year run as head coach for Arkansas State, where he took the Red Wolves to a bowl game every year and won two Sun Belt championships.

Offensively, Anderson and OC Anthony Tucker run a pure shotgun spread offense that prefers 4-wide sets and a combination of play-action quick hitters (slants, curls, outs) and deep shots. QB Logan Bonner returns from 3628-yard seasons with 36 TDs and 12 picks. The senior is a stock 6’1” 230 guy who’s surprisingly adept at breaking would-be sacks and hucking the ball deep with a quick release.

He lost pretty much all of his receiving production from 2021, though, including 1700-yard receiver, Deven Thompkins.

Running back Calvin Tyler returns after racking up 884 yards last year off of RPO handoffs and quick off-tackle runs.

The other up and coming star of the coaching staff is defensive coordinator Ephraim Banda. The former safeties coach for the Miami Hurricanes, Banda got his first shot at DC with the Aggies last season and put together a very strong defense in year one.

With his background in safeties, Banda likes using 3 of them. He employs a rather unique 3-3-5 defense that focuses strongly on presnap deception and blitzing someone, somewhere on nearly every play. On 3rd downs, he’ll even have the Aggies pull everyone into a standup position with who rushes and who drops seeming like an almost random decision.

Unfortunately, they lost their leading tackler and leading pass rusher from 2021. Graduate senior defensive back Hunter Reynolds returns to offer a veteran presence, but, for the most part, they are replacing most of their key producers on defense.

According to the DraftKings Sportsbook, Alabama is favored by 42 points with a total OU of 61.5. Essentially, they’re predicting 52-10.

The Aggie defense is very green and is likely to be quite susceptible to Bryce Young’s aerial attack, particularly if he’s continued to make strides and is making hot throws against blitzes. It will be a unique challenge for him to identify the different blitzers.

Meanwhile, don’t expect the Aggie offense to get anything consistent going against Alabama’s veteran front 7, and there should be a good bit of negative plays. That said, don’t be surprised if Bonner hits a couple of big passes downfield against Alabama’s fresh group of outside cornerbacks.

So the 42-point spread is always risky for Nick Saban teams, as he tends to take the foot off the gas pedal. But the 61.5 over? I’d take it.

Roll Tide!

Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.